Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
e-mail: jfc@freeshell.org
Feedback: Please, to the above address!
Archive: By permission only!
Rating: NC-17 for language and scenes of m/m interaction
Category: SRA/Caution: Intermittent schmoop warnings!
Spoilers: Everything through the middle of season six
Timeframe: After "S.R. 819"
Keywords: M/K slash!

Summary: The boys are thrown together again. Sequel to my "Arrows of Desire"--you probably need to read that first (copy available upon request!).

DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and the whole X-Files gang, not to me. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit. Lyrics used without permission.

COPYRIGHT: (C) August 7, 1999, Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, jfc@freeshell.org

Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise...

(John Lennon/Paul McCartney)


The dream was always so vivid it left me gasping when I woke up. I'd be in that hotel room again, tuxedo flung on the floor, with Alex Krycek's cock shoved so far up my ass I could tell that he'd been circumcised by the feeling in the back of my throat. I couldn't come, though, not until he said the words that I knew were on the tip of his tongue. C'mon, Alex (I'd think): say it. Three little words. *The* three little words. The biggest, scariest, most dangerous three little words in the English language. Should I say it first? Okay, Alex, I...

Then somebody would burst in the door. Sometimes it was Skinner, sometimes my father, sometimes the cancerman, sometimes Scully... Once it was a mirror-image of me--don't ask. Whoever it was, though, he would be carrying Alex's gun, and with no warning, would shoot him in the head. The noise of the shot would ring in my ears, and the shooter would disappear, leaving Alex lying still and cooling next to me on the bed, staring past me into the great beyond. Had I had this dream more often than once or twice a month in the half a year since I found myself naked with the bastard, I'd have blown my own brains out.

That night, though, the sound was different. The shooter in my dream didn't surprise me anymore, and the gun usually reported in exactly the same key, one deadly shot fired. But that night it came at the wrong time, in the wrong key, and banged over and over, loudly. I awakened, sitting up on my couch, and realized that the banging was coming from my front door.

Two-thirty a.m., I noted. I looked through the peephole, but the bulb in the hall was burned out and all I could make out was a dark head, facing away from the door. Silently, I grabbed up my gun and held it ready, but not before two or three more bangs, a little closer together than the first batch and not as hard. I released the chain lock and the deadbolt, taking a deep breath before I turned the knob and pulled in the door.

A body fell heavily, awkwardly against mine, knocking my gun out of my hand and pushing me to the floor. Before I could scramble out from under the nearly dead weight and lunge for my weapon, a single word escaped from the body on top of me in a breathy sigh that resembled nothing so much as the sound of someone tearing a sheet of fine-grained sandpaper in two: "Help."

I swear my heart stopped for an agonizing second. "Alex?" I asked, my arms no longer pushing his shoulders off of me, but reaching to help him up.

He turned weakly in my grasp and gave me a twenty-watt grin. "Surprise." I suspected that he had been leaning against the door and using one foot to horse-kick it with his last crumb of energy, because his eyes rolled back in his head and he fainted in my lap.

I crawled out from under Krycek's inert form, giving myself only a few minor contusions, and hopped up to turn on the vestibule lamp. Crouching next to him, I examined him visually for gunshot wounds or fresh bloodstains, noting that he had looked a damned sight healthier when I'd discovered him in Hong Kong. I don't know what made me do it, but I grasped his right wrist--his only wrist, I recalled wryly--looking for a pulse. I almost dropped his arm as soon as my fingers grazed the bony protrusions above his hand, or, should I say, the place where those protrusions should have been: the bones felt strangely loose and wobbly under the skin.

Before I could take his hand in mine, he startled awake, squawking wordlessly. "Aaauggh!" he cried out, yanking his arm away from my touch. He lay with his head on the floor, his breath catching and his eyes barely focusing on me.

"What happened?" I asked, genuinely afraid to touch him.

"It doesn't pay to have enemies in high places, Mulder. I got ambushed. They broke it."

"Your wrist?" I asked, cautiously looking over his arm, which he held protectively across his stomach. It was then that I noticed the unnatural angles assumed by some of his fingers, and my mouth went dry.

"My whole goddamned hand, Mulder," he groaned, wincing from pain. "I need your help."

Oh, God, I remember thinking. How do you completely handicap a man who has only one hand? Deprive him of the use of that one, too. I had had one finger broken in recent memory, and I tried to imagine that pain multiplied fivefold. Compassionate tears sprang to my eyes despite my efforts to remain calm.

Gently, I got him under the arms and helped him to stand. It broke my heart to see how haggard he looked. "What do you need?" I asked. "Whatever I have, it's yours." Gee, Mulder--how much can you have changed in six months? Okay, maybe it was more like a year: not just since he'd fucked me after that charity gala, but longer--since the night he'd given me information and a quick, terrible, confusing, arousing kiss. But at some point in that stretch of time Alex Krycek had stopped being my worst nightmare and started being the man of my dreams. Damn me to hell, anyway. (Too late, you tool; too damned late.)

"Actually, Mulder," he answered, "what I could really use is your bathroom." He had sort of an apologetic look in his eyes that I couldn't place, until I realized just what he was asking.

"Oh," I stammered, "you'll need me to, um,..."

"Yeah. I'm sorry. Ordinarily, I would hate to impose, but I figure you of all people are the one person I can trust to hold my dick while I take a piss." He finally caught my eye again and asked, with a hint of challenge in his voice, "Aren't you?"

Suddenly my reluctance left me as I realized that this wasn't about sex, but about a more basic physical need, and that Alex both needed me to help and trusted me not take advantage of the situation. I smiled and led him into the bathroom, standing close behind him so I could reach everything, and could catch him in case he passed out again. I remained mostly silent while we took care of business, trying hard to allow my mind to stay a blank, forcibly willing my own equipment to remain uninvolved.

At last we finished up, and I remembered to ask, "Anything else while we're here?"

He looked confused for a moment, then chuckled when he realized I was asking if he wanted to sit and read for a few minutes, so to speak. "No, thanks. Maybe later."

I returned his smile as I washed my hands and dried them. He still had the glazed look of someone who desperately required drugs, several good nights' sleep, a week's worth of square meals, and at least two showers. "What now?" I asked, mentally putting aside the other things I would have liked to do for him.

"Can I have some water?" he asked, gazing longingly at the faucet.

"Sure," I replied, "help your-" I stopped abruptly. Of course he couldn't help himself. "I'm sorry. This is going to take some getting used to. Come on."

We went into the kitchen, where I turned on the tap to let the water get cold. I dug a sport bottle with an attached straw out of the pantry, rinsed it out, and dumped in a few ice cubes before filling it and sealing the lid.

"Here," I said. "I figure you can prop this up with your prosthesis and I won't have to hold it for you."

"Ooh, resourceful," he gushed, "but can you help me get my jacket off first?"

This was harder than I had anticipated. I finally resorted to leaving his left sleeve on his shoulder for balance while I gingerly eased the right cuff over the fractured fingers of his right hand, only making him yelp once or twice.

Finally his jacket was hung in my vestibule closet, and he was propped on the sofa with the straw of the water bottle within easy reach. He bent to sip at it loudly, then leaned his head back with his eyes closed. I sat in my armchair, unable to take my eyes off of him.

"I want you to get that hand x-rayed, or at least get the bones set. Can I take you to the emergency room?" I offered.

"No, no hospitals. Then *They* would know I'm hurt and vulnerable. I wanna stay here for awhile." The significance of his request hit him visibly, like a wave knocking into him on the beach. Suddenly he turned hesitant. "Is that okay? I know it's presumptuous of me, but I don't trust anyone else..." His eyes searched mine for permission to turn my house, my life, and my heart upside-down. Though I still wouldn't admit it out loud to him, I mentally took him in for always in that moment.

"At least let me call somebody," I offered.

"Who?" he asked with every sarcastic stop open in his voice.

I wanted to grab some innocuous body part to reassure him, but taking his hand even gently was out of the question. Letting him see my hesitation, I patted his knee as innocently as I could. "Maybe Scully knows somebody..."

The set of his jaw told me every objection he wanted to make to this idea and didn't dare, while his eyes flirted around panic and pain. "Can I trust Scully?"

"You can if I tell her you do. She can keep her mouth shut if necessary. She would never betray my trust--you have to believe that."

He considered this, sucking on the straw thoughtfully. "Call her. But just Scully. I don't want her calling in a consult."

I nodded confidently, hiding the fact that I had no idea if Scully could set broken bones. I scooped up my cordless phone and carried it into the kitchen, dialing her number and letting it ring a long time.

She finally picked up. "Shcully," she slurred sleepily.

"Scully, it's me. Wake up."

"I'm awake, Muller. What time is it?"

I checked the clock over the sink. "Three o'clock. Can you come over?"

*That* woke her up. "Why? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I need you, though. There's no one else I could call."

"Are you *sure* you're okay?"

"I've got a friend here who could really use some medical help."

There was a pause before she spoke again. "You haven't shot somebody in your apartment again, have you?"

"No, Scully! Nothing like that! How are you at setting broken bones?"

She sighed deeply. "What have you done *now*?"

"Nothing, I swear! I've just got a friend here who's been hurt, and I need somebody who can help him. Can you do that?"

"You can't take him to the emergency room?" Her voice was very nearly a put-upon whine.

"No, Scully. *Please.* It's important."

I think I heard her squeeze her temples between her thumb and middle finger. "Oh, all right. I'll be there in twenty minutes."

"Thank you, Scully. I owe you one."

"At this point, you owe me eighty-three, but who's counting? This better not be your neighbor's cat that fell out your window..."

"No, not a cat. I promise. This means a lot to me. See you soon." She clicked off with me praying she wouldn't break *my* arm when she saw whom she'd been called to help.

I carried the phone quietly back into the main room, noting that Alex was snoring quietly with his head tipped back on the sofa cushions. He looked small and lost, even while asleep. Without a second thought, I gingerly brushed his hair off of his forehead.

He was awake at once, reaching unconsciously for his gun, and yelling in pain when his fingers grazed his hip.

I grabbed his shoulders and looked into his eyes. "Sorry, man. I didn't mean to startle you."

"That's okay. Just a reflex," he explained, straightening and shaking himself awake. "So, is she coming?"

"Yeah. She'll be here in twenty minutes. Y'know, it occurred to me: if she puts a cast on you, you won't be able to take a shower for quite awhile. Why don't we get you cleaned up before she gets here?" I tried very hard to sound like this idea didn't scare the hell out of me for a variety of reasons.

"Good idea," Alex agreed, looking like he was swallowing similar fears. "You wanna help me up, here?"

We managed to get him off of the sofa and back into the bathroom without much fuss. He sat on the toilet lid while I removed his boots and t-shirt, then sorted out the buckles and straps of his artificial arm. Since I had seen them before, the red and rubbed marks they left behind did not startle me as much.

All of his clothes were overdue for the laundry, if not the garbage, so I went and found him a clean shirt, as well as a pair of slightly too-tight-for-me underwear and some sweatpants. I started the water running in the shower and adjusted the temperature before stripping myself and turning back to help him out of his jeans. We stood naked, staring at anything but each other's cocks for a few heartbeats, when he caught my eye and smiled.

"I forgot to say this before, but thanks." His mouth brushed mine almost guiltily, but I caught it as it passed and returned his kiss firmly.

"You're welcome," I whispered, holding him close for just a moment, then carefully stepped backwards into the tub and led him after me. I gave him a quick shampoo, getting a sensual thrill from running my fingers through his sudsy hair, then bathed him as thoroughly as I dared under our time restriction. I didn't want to cause him any further pain, so I left off scrubbing his broken hand and allowed him to let the warm spray fall on it for a few moments. "Does that feel good?" I asked in a sultrier tone than I probably should have used.

"Yeah," he sighed, with his eyes closed and the tips of his ears turning pink due to the temperature of the room, and possibly for other reasons. I let him lean against the tiled wall as I removed the nozzle from its holder and ran it over him to rinse off the soap and the accumulated crud.

We climbed out of the tub, and I rubbed him down with a clean towel. His face relaxed again as he exhaled a throaty hum, his eyes closed in comfort and, dare I presume, bliss? I tried to remain all business as I dried his genitals, but I could feel him stiffen under my fingers. I looked to him for a sign of how to proceed and saw his eyes open slowly, their golden flecks encouraging me onward. Before I could stop myself, my tongue was down his throat and I was stroking him hard, making him whimper deliciously.

As I kissed him, I remembered that night in that alley, Alex kissing me up against a wall with that beautiful mouth which had just given me a helluva blow job, when all I could think of was doing what I finally was getting to do right here in my own bathroom. So what if he had put me through hell and probably would again? At that moment, I was in heaven.

Or perhaps purgatory. "Mulder, are you in... Whoops! Excuse me!" The door had opened and closed in a hurry, but not so quickly that I couldn't see the red flip of hair that had started to poke into the bathroom. Now, tell me again: why did I give her a key? I waited to compose sympathy-provoking explanations in my head until I determined exactly how much she'd actually seen.

"Was that...?" Alex started to ask.

"Yup. Your doctor's making a house call. Let's get you presentable," I fussed, bustling him into the briefs, sweats, and t-shirt I'd laid out for him earlier.

As I dragged the shirt over his head, he chewed amusedly on his tongue. "Mulder?"

"What?" I hurriedly tied on the bathrobe that hung on the back of the door.

"You're a dead man, aren't you?" He made no effort to stifle his idiotic grin.

"Don't remind me," I warned, ushering him out the door to meet my doom.

Scully stood in my vestibule in a t-shirt and jeans with an honest-to-God little black bag on the table and her eyebrows somewhere above her hairline. "*This* is your *friend*?" she asked in a voice that implied that I was asking her to patch up Saddam Hussein.

Bless Alex's little heart. All of my attentions must have contributed to making him feel a little better, because he broke the tension by holding up his fractured digits. "Hey, don't worry, Doc: I'm completely harmless!"

She inhaled and exhaled ve-e-e-e-e-ry slowly, biting her upper lip instead of barking out something cruel. "Okay, Krycek. Come with me." She escorted him into my bedroom with nary a glance in my direction and shut the door behind them.

I sat down in a straight-backed chair before I fell down. Words flowed through my brain, trying to form the precise sentences that would stall my murder by Dana Scully for longer than two seconds after she emerged through that door. I loved her--there was no question about that--but I had never been able to bring myself to do anything about it. I had tried telling her once, but she'd thought I was stoned. Well, I *had* been, but that didn't change the facts at hand.

But what good was my love to her? Scully deserved a real man, not one who would put her into the line of fire again and again, not one who couldn't keep her safe and out of danger. She deserved to be cherished and adored, doted on and cooed over. She did *not* deserve the glancing attentions I had always paid her, the shameful sobbing of her name when I locked myself in the bathroom late at night and jerked off with her far across town, or in the room next door...

Then again, *that* hadn't been about her for awhile, either. Of course, depending upon what she'd seen in the bathroom, she might have figured that out. It was at that moment it occurred to me why I was no good for Scully: it was because I had fallen in love with Alex Krycek.

I was trying to wrap my brain around this overwhelming concept when the muffled conversation coming from my bedroom was punctuated by an injured yelp from the man himself. Scully must have been positioning his fingers to wrap them up, which couldn't have felt good, because he let out several such cries of pain. Each cry stirred up a mysterious unease in my chest, which I tried to identify as empathy, but it rang completely false. Somehow I wanted to be in that room, but doing what? Not holding him and trying to console him, I could tell. Damned lucky Scully. *She* could listen to him and commiserate and tell him to be brave... No, that wasn't it.

Suddenly I understood why I was envious of her. *She* was the one hurting him, not I, and I was, oh God, getting *turned on* by the sound of his tormented wails coming from behind my bedroom door. I had always denied to myself that I had enjoyed beating the crap out of Krycek, but I could still recall the visceral kick of pounding him into pulp, even as I chose to ignore the hard-on it had always given me. I rearranged myself, recrossing my legs under the bathrobe, but my erect cock twitched with every scream. What sort of sick fuck could I be that I found his misery to be so arousing? I spent the next few minutes praying that I wouldn't either throw up or come in my lap.

I got up and went into the bathroom, ripping off some toilet paper into which to blow my nose (my box of tissues being next to my bed, of course) and staring at the toilet for a long moment, eventually just stopping to take a piss myself. While washing my hands, I took a good look at my face in the mirror, where the only features that gave me any satisfaction were the tears that hovered just inside the corners of my eyes. I heard the bedroom door open and shut quietly, so I dabbed at my eyes with the sleeve of my robe and wandered out to lay my head on the executioner's block.

"He's asleep," Scully began. "I gave him some painkillers, which should knock him out till sometime tomorrow. Wait," she blurted, correcting herself, "it *is* tomorrow already. Well, sometime before noon. You had better get some sleep yourself. You look like hell. What are you going to do?"

"He trusts me and doesn't have anywhere else to go. I guess I'm going to stay here and take care of him. Can you make up something for Skinner? Maybe I'll use up some of my accumulated leave time."

She didn't look at me as she dug supplies out of her bag. "Do you think you can handle the pressures of being a full time primary caregiver to a near invalid? He'll need you to do everything for him for awhile."

"I understand that. I would hope that I could call you if I needed any advice or just needed to hear a different voice in a couple of days. Can I?" I asked, wearing the most appealing expression I could produce.

"Yeah, Mulder," she sighed amiably, "just don't call me to babysit. There might be an unfortunate incident with a pillow on his face..."

"Roger that," I nodded. "You're not angry with me for not telling you over the phone that it was him?"

"No... You know me well enough to realize that I wouldn't have come had you told me, but I came because you asked me to, so that's just how we'll leave it." I mentally heaved a sigh of relief. She proceeded to point out the pills she was leaving me for him. "Now give him one of these every four to six hours, and if he needs something in-between, give him one of these little ones, okay?"

"I think I can handle that. How long do you think it'll take for his bones to heal?"

"Probably about six weeks. I'm sort of worried about the fractured wrist, because I may have not set it properly, not having an x-ray to look at. I might need you to convince him to go to a hospital in a couple of weeks if it doesn't heal right--it might need to be pinned."

"I'll see if I can twist his arm--oh, sorry! Bad joke!"

Scully groaned appreciatively and let herself smile. She snapped the bag closed, and dusted off her hands. "Well, I guess that's everything, considering that you already examined his tonsils..."

Every drop of blood in my brain fell to my feet in anticipation of her biting off my head. The room swam for a moment. "Oh, God, Scully... I am *so* sorry!"

Her mouth dropped open. She was either agog or aghast. I didn't think to ask which. "Sorry for what? Being gay?"

Oh, no. She'd said the "g" word. I felt the shoals scrape the bottom of my barge cruising down the river of denial. I mentally scrambled for an oar to push me back to float free. "But, I thought you thought that you... and I..." I pointed back and forth between us in the air like a windshield wiper.

"It *has* been six years, Mulder. Don't you think I gave up on you a long time ago?" She must have seen the stinging handprint that her words left on my cheek, because she came around the table and kissed it softly away. Hugging me warmly, she whispered, "I hope he makes you happy, Mulder. I really do. Because if he breaks your heart, I'm gonna hunt him down and kill him."

I hugged her back, stunned more by her acceptance than I would have been by her rejection. "I'll remember that. Thank you for everything. I *do* love you, you know..."

She held me at arm's length and gave me the same lovely Scully smile she'd always given me, the one that made everybody else think we were sleeping together already. "Yeah, I know. You call me if you need anything, okay?"

She scooped up her bag and her keys as I held the door open for her. "I'll do that. Call and warn me if Skinner heads over here with a vat of chicken soup when he hears I'm not coming in for the next couple of weeks, won't you?"

"You've got it," she agreed. "Take care, Mulder. Of him *and* of yourself. Good night."

I relocked the door, turned off the vestibule light, and went back to the couch to try to get some sleep. Alex's water bottle sat forgotten on the TV, so I quickly refilled it and put it in the fridge for the next day, then turned off the living room lamp and stared at the ceiling for an hour or two until I fell asleep.


The next morning found me standing in the kitchen, assessing my sparse supply of comestibles. There was barely enough food to keep myself alive for three days, much less two of us, one of whom needed to build up his reserves and heal, for a month and a half. For the first or second time since I moved into my apartment, I wrote myself a real, paper shopping list.

I thought I'd better check on my patient and get his input on a few items, so knocked softly on my bedroom door. There was no answer, so I let myself in and peeked at the lump under the covers on my bed. He lay flat on his back, left stump and right plastered mummy arm stretched out on top of the quilt. I sat down carefully on the edge of the mattress hoping not to disturb him, but just missing his voice enough that I didn't want to leave until he'd woken up.

Some stupid popular song rang through my head when I noticed how beautiful his eyelashes were. Good old Scully, I thought, doing her job like always: poking holes in my crackpot theories and pointing out scientific facts. Facts like Fox Mulder is a big, flaming queer, crazy in love with a suspected murderer, thief, and all-around bad guy. I didn't know why it hadn't occurred to me before. I guess that I figured I'd keep fucking any woman I wanted to and it would mean I was straight, failing to notice that I didn't want to fuck very many of them.

Right then all I wanted to do was curl up in Alex's arms (difficult in and of itself) and confess everything: how much I loved him, how good it felt to kiss him, how many nights I'd imagined his lips sucking my cock--yes, even how wretched it felt to realize that the thought of hitting him got me as hard as the thought of making love to him. But I doubted I'd ever be able to bring myself to tell him any of that, the last one in particular, so I just sat there stupidly, watching him sleep on my pillows.

"Did you want something?" he suddenly asked without opening his eyes.

Luckily, I'd had both feet on the floor, so I didn't fall off the edge of the bed when I startled. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

"You didn't really," he admitted, looking at me at last with eyes still a little foggy from medication. "I'd been thinking of how best to get your attention out there if I'd really needed you. You popped in before it really became an issue."

I felt myself smile broadly. "Your psychic summoning spell must have worked. You need a bathroom trip?"

He finally smiled a little. "Please." I helped him out of bed and in to the toilet, where we each did everything we needed to do with a minimum of discomfort.

I found Alex somewhere to sit at the table and began reeling off a breakfast menu. "Let's see: I've got some Rice Krispies, some instant oatmeal, or I think there's an egg or two in the fridge."

"In *your* fridge?" he shuddered. "I've seen your fridge. It isn't pretty. Why don't we go for the oatmeal, milk optional? How long has it been since you spoon-fed anybody?"

"Quite awhile," I conceded, putting some water on to boil.

"Then something that sticks to the spoon would probably be our best bet, wouldn't you say?"

I nodded my agreement, set out a bowl, and dumped the dried oatmeal mix into it. I did locate a clean juice glass and a soda straw for some o.j., and set it in reach in front of him. I was amazed to note that my juice hadn't passed its expiration date yet, so filled his glass, then poured one for myself as well. Before long we were negotiating spoonfuls of beige glop, working out unspoken cues for "more, please", "wait a minute", and "enough". I managed to produce some unburnt toast on the second try, so we were both covered in crumbs by the end of our first breakfast together.

I was feeling domestic, so I started washing dishes as soon as we were finished. "Forgive me if I don't offer to help," spouted Alex, earning a grin from me.

"So," I said while the sink was filling, "what are we going to do about your things?"

"Things?" he asked, looking more suspicious than puzzled.

"Yeah. I'm sorry, but I don't even know where you live. I was thinking you might want somebody to go by and pick up some clothes, forward your phone, that kind of thing..."

He mulled over his answer for several minutes. "I don't think I was expecting any messages, since my employers give me my assignments in person. I might ask you to buy me some stuff if you can get out for awhile. I've got money," he added hurriedly.

"Oh, I wasn't worried about that. Is your place gonna be okay if you don't go there for awhile?"

"Yeah. Fine," he muttered, closing off that line of conversation. I started to wonder if he had a real place to live at all, but decided it was safest not to pursue it for the time being. I shut up and scrubbed at a plate.

The awkward silence must have finally become too uncomfortable for Alex. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

"I shouldn't have asked such a personal question," I mumbled.

He let out a strangled laugh. "C'mon, Mulder. You just hand-fed me breakfast. Hell, half an hour ago, you wiped my ass! I don't think there's very much that's too "personal" between us at this point! If I'm not forthcoming about something or other, maybe it's because it's too dangerous for you to know."

Guardedly, I replied, "So now you're trying to protect me..."

He stood up suddenly, knocking over his chair. "Dammit, I have wanted to protect you for as long as I can remember! Sometimes it didn't work so well, but I never wanted to see you hurt. So I have my secrets--so do *you*, I imagine. I let you know as much as I can without putting your safety at risk." He came right up in my face and fixed me with those sharp green eyes. "Are we understood here?"

Something about this conversation reminded me of the words that had passed between us after our encounter in the hotel room. Once again, he was telling me one completely innocent, inconsequential message, inside of which most likely was wrapped another, much more earnest one. "Perfectly," I answered, snatching my hands out of the dishwater and grabbing his shoulders, pulling him in for a deep, wrenching kiss. By the responsiveness of his tongue, I could tell that I had received his transmission loud and clear.

Many moments later, we broke for air. I was alarmed to see a frown wrinkle the line above Alex's nose. "You okay?" I asked.

"Ow," he groaned, his gaze turned inward. "I guess the stuff the good doctor Scully gave me must have worn off. Did she leave you anything...?"

I found the pills in the vestibule and gave him one with the juice he'd left in his glass. Reading the warnings on the side of the bottle, I noted, "These might make you sleepy. Would you like to lie down again?"

"Yeah," he whined, sounding more like a sick, scared kid than a man whose t-shirt sleeves still bore wet wrinkles from my hands clutching his arms in naked desire. "Mulder?"


"Could you hold me till I fall asleep?"

"Gladly", I agreed, trying to sound strong and calm, giving the lie to the heart breaking in my chest. I dried my hands on the dishtowel, then guided him back to bed, crawling in beside him. He rested his head on my right shoulder and wound his legs between mine as I stroked his right shoulder and watched him succumb to sleep. When I was sure he was under, I kissed him softly on the forehead and disentangled my limbs from his slowly so as not to disturb him. "I love you, Alex," I mouthed at him silently, feeling the completeness of having finally put the words together, and shut the door behind me.

Back in the kitchen, I righted the overturned chair and went to finish up the remaining dishes, wipe off the sink, and clean out the biology experiment that was my refrigerator. My mind was busy wandering through a checklist of Alex's facial features, so I didn't hear anyone in my hall until a scraping alerted me to the fact that someone was jimmying my front lock. I tiptoed into the vestibule, where I picked up my weapon, and waited with it trained on the door.

"Freeze!" I yelled the moment the door was breached, causing the person in the hall to drop his lockpick and fling skinny hands in the air as he stared at me through black horn-rim glasses framed with straggly blond hair. "Langly?"

"Mulder, man, what are *you* doing home? Why aren't you at work?"

I put down my gun, and he cautiously bent to retrieve his pick. "*Me*? What are *you* doing here?" I asked as I gestured him inside and closed my front door.

"Uh, maybe I should have just yelled out "Exterminator!" and knocked. We've been scouting out your place once a month, checking for bugs."

"We? How long have you guys been doing this?" I asked, ushering him into the living room and sitting on the sofa.

"Oh, awhile. Uh, you're welcome?" he offered guiltily, sitting across from me.

I was still a bit unnerved by his visit and wondered if our voices might disturb Alex. "Um, thanks, I think. Y'know, I've got a house guest, so maybe you'd better do your checking quietly out here and split."

"Ahhh, I get it. She's still sleeping it off, eh? How many drinks do you have to buy a girl to get her to come home with a loser like you?" He smirked broadly, but I could tell he was mostly yanking my chain.

"Look, Bozo: it's *not* a girl, and I don't want everybody knowing about it!"

"Right. So, how many drinks do you have to buy a *man* to get him to..."

"*Shut up!*" I hissed. "It's nothing like that! Listen: can you keep a secret?"

Langly almost looked offended. "Me? I am always the soul of discretion." His glance turned conspiratorial. "So, what's the dirt, anyway?"

"Alex Krycek is recuperating in my bedroom."

He blinked in disbelief. "Recuperating from what? Did you shoot him?"

"Why does everybody always ask me that? No--somebody broke all of his fingers and his wrist. He needs someplace to hide and heal, and he needs me to take care of him."

His ferret-like intensity softened somewhat. "Why you?"

"It's a long story. Just don't tell anyone he's here, not even Frohike."

"I won't spill even if an evil wizard puts an honesty spell on me," he swore, hand upraised. He shifted in his seat and weighed this heavy bit of gossip. "Man, that'd mean you'd have to do *everything* for him, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, it does," I emphasized, letting him fill in his own mental pictures, almost hoping he'd just do what he came to do and leave.

But then he looked me in the eye and said something I never thought I'd hear in a million years: "You need any help?"

It was my turn to look doubtful. "Are you offering?"

He shrugged casually. "Sure. I can handle taking care of somebody who needs a lot of help. My brother, Paul, has cerebral palsy and needs a caretaker around the clock. When we were growing up, I got used to doing all kinds of stuff that'd make an ordinary guy hurl. I mean, he's just human, right? It won't kill ya..."

"You'd volunteer to take over for a little while? I really need to get out and get some groceries and supplies. He's asleep now, and might be for awhile--Scully's got him on heavy drugs."

"Cool..." he replied, a little too enthusiastically.

"And *NO* sampling!"

"Oh, right," he corrected himself. "I can talk him down if he freaks when he finds me here. I don't think I'd scare him too much. You go get what you need. I can hold down the fort here for awhile. Don't worry about us--we'll be fine."

I put a clean shirt on over my jeans, tied on my sneakers, and found my grocery list and car keys. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Look, I really appreciate this, Ringo..."

"Hey, no problemo. Happy to lend a hand."

"Wait a minute... Paul... and Ringo? Was your mother a Beatle freak or something?"

"My mother didn't name me Ringo."

"Really? So what *did* she name you?"

"That's "need-to-know" only, Mulder. Get going. Maybe you'll get back before he wakes up."


I went to the nearest Mega-Mart and stocked up on staples and food that would be simple to cook and easy to feed to someone else. In the toy department, I found a loud electronic noisemaker machine that could be hung from one's neck and set off by pushing a big button (to solve the problem of getting my attention through a closed door). I picked up a couple packages of underwear and t-shirts, including a silly one reading "Don't blame me: I voted for Bill the Cat", a toothbrush, some antiperspirant, and, on impulse, a small bouquet of flowers with a red rose in the middle and a "Get Well Soon" mini-balloon on a stick. Pausing in the liquor department, I decided against any serious beer, given the narcotics Alex had to take, so got some of the higher-grade unleaded stuff. It may have been wishful thinking, but I grabbed a couple boxes of condoms and some Astroglide, just in case. I had failed to get Alex's request list, but with Langly's help, I figured I could go shopping again before the week was out.

My wallet was a bit lighter as I struggled the groceries up in the elevator and fumbled the key in my lock. I was surprised to hear laughter coming from inside my apartment as I opened the door, and found two figures huddled over my computer.

"Hey, how about a little help here?" I called to Langly.

"Oh, jeez," he muttered to Alex, who was looking quite a bit perkier than when I'd left him a few hours earlier, "Dad's home. I guess no more dirty online pictures for now..."

"Shit," swore Alex in reply, sounding just like a teenager caught perusing restricted sites, but grinning hugely.

I restrained myself from running up to him and giving him a big kiss, not knowing how much Langly had guessed or had baldly asked him. He turned back to the screen and continued chuckling at something he was reading. Langly came in to help me haul the bags into the kitchen and unpack them. I stuck the flowers and personal items out of the way to deal with after he'd gone.

"So, how's our patient?" I quizzed my assistant.

"Pretty good. He woke up about a half-hour after you left, and I explained who I was and where you'd gone, and we've been getting acquainted ever since."

"Is he in any pain?"

"He hasn't mentioned anything. I guess the drugs are working, *not* that I know from personal experience," he was quick to add.

"Good," I nodded, shutting a cabinet door. "Extermination go well?"

"Yup. You're clean, in case you guys are going to be up to anything you don't want spread around the Consortium."

A small, dark cloud drifted over my jovial mood. "Don't joke about that, okay?"

Langly looked simultaneously concerned and culpable. "Sorry, man. It's none of my business..." His eyes began examining the toes of his sandals.

I quickly clapped him on the shoulder and addressed him in a hushed tone. "That's not it, okay? I didn't mean that. It's just that we don't want anybody to know even that he's here, got it?"

"Okay," he consented, diffidently. His eyes grabbed onto mine suddenly. "Look, I hope I'm not being nosy, but just so I don't say anything stupid to Alex, I need to know: *Are* you guys...?"

"Are we *what*?"

"*You* know: you and him..."

I took a long, slow breath, wondering how to answer. "Yeah, we are, I think."

"You *think*?" he chuckled. "Don't you *know*?"

"Would it make you think I was less of a man if I told you we were?"

"No, man," he allowed, "it would make me a little envious of you." He left that bombshell ticking in my head and changed the subject. "I'd better get going. Call me if you need me, okay?" He picked up his gear and called to Alex, "Hey, man. I'll see you soon, capiche?"

"Sounds good, Ringo. Thanks!" he answered from the next room.

With that, the little elf was gone. I dug through the pantry and found a vase, filled it with water, and stuck the bouquet in it. I tucked it behind my back, then came out to find my new raison d'etre.

"Hey, you," I began.

"Hey," Alex echoed.

"Didja miss me?"

He kicked his wheeled desk chair so he spun to face me, his eyes lit merrily. "Like I miss my left arm," he responded breathily, so that I was only half-certain that he was kidding. "What'd ya bring me?"

With a dramatic sweep of my arm, I presented him with the vase. To say that his face fell implies that it turned in a particular direction. It would be more accurate to describe it as having dissolved. Every spark of joy evaporated from his expression.

"What's this?" he asked, almost suspiciously.

"Flowers," I explained needlessly, puzzled. "Was this the wrong thing? Did I do something I shouldn't have?"

"That depends. Why are you giving them to me?" The coldness of his voice chilled my spine.

I set the offending blossoms on the coffee table and sat on the sofa, trying not to let my hurt feelings show on my face, and failing miserably. "They were supposed to cheer you up. I thought they were pretty."

"Oh," he answered quietly, as if this was an amazing revelation to him. "Where I come from, you cut flowers to honor the dead."

The culture clash rang in my head like an off-key gong. "Oh, God, Alex, I'm sorry!" I groaned, holding back tears. "I only wanted to make you happy. I didn't know..."

"That's *it*?" he challenged me, looking me straight in the eye. "This is a happy gift?"

"Yeah," I reiterated. "Nobody's ever given you flowers before, have they?"

"No, they haven't."

A silence fell between us, broken only by the slight catch in my breath.

Slowly, he stretched his neck over to take an investigative sniff at the vase. A tiny smile quirked one corner of his mouth. "Maybe they should have..."

I couldn't say anything for a few moments and sat staring at this beautiful man who could feel threatened by a simple gesture. I felt a tear course down my cheek and drop off of my jaw onto my shirt front. "I'm sorry, Alex. I didn't mean to do anything wrong. I got them for you because friends get friends flowers when they're sick, or hurt, or..."

"Is that what we are, Mulder? Friends?" His expression was jumbled enough so as to be unreadable.

"I hope so, Alex, at the very least. Can we start there?"

He walked his chair over to rest directly in front of me. "Yeah. At the very least." Bringing his face very close to mine, he ducked out of my field of vision, whereupon I felt his tongue lap up the teardrop that still clung to the underside of my jawbone, then trace its track back up my cheek. My eyes closed to savor the sensation, and I felt him press a soft kiss on my wet eyelashes, first on that eye, then the other. His hot breath dried the moisture ringing my eyelids as he whispered, "Can friends make love to friends, at the very least?"

I began to respond, "Oh, yes," but his mouth swallowed my words. He kissed me with such force our teeth clacked together, and I absorbed the jar, feeling I deserved the pain: for hurting Alex in the past, for wanting to hurt him the night before, and for inadvertently hurting him with my inappropriate gift. The spark of guilt in my gut was soon extinguished by the pool of arousal that flooded my soul as Alex kissed me forever.

His lips broke from mine only long enough for him to say, "Open your jeans. Get it out for me," which I did with shaking hands. Between kisses he ordered softly, "Stroke yourself. Get nice and hard, but don't come yet. Save it for me." I moaned into his mouth as I complied with his commands. "Let your hands be my hands," he sighed, beginning to nip at my throat as my head tipped back.

Alex bent almost double in his chair, pushing me down on the couch with just the pressure of his head against my body. He worked his way gradually down my chest and stomach, biting my flesh hard through my shirt, then kissing the bites tenderly. My body arched to meet his mouth, eager to pay penance to his sharp, cruel teeth. I knew he couldn't see, but I was holding my cock tight, knowing that it would spurt like a geyser just from his oral seduction were I to let go.

With his teeth, he dragged my shirt front up my chest, then ran his tongue around and into my navel, leaving me sticky with his drying saliva. I couldn't open my eyes, but I could feel his gaze on my face as he asked, "Does this make you want to come?"

"Yes," I answered, almost begging.

"Say it," he requested, methodically. "Tell me what you want."

"I want to come," I muttered.

"Do you want me to make you come?"

"Yes." My reply was almost all breath.

"What do you want me to do to you, Mulder? How should I make you come?" His questions were just for effect, as he had few options open to him, but this made them no less exciting.

"I want you to suck my cock, Alex. Please. I need to come." Tears were flowing freely from the outer corners of my tightly-shut eyes.

"Good," he returned, almost coldly. I could practically hear the harsh glint in his eye. "I hate to misinterpret signals." His mouth surrounded the head of my penis at last, and I released my hand. Alex's tongue made three firm strokes on my shaft, and his teeth scraped at my glans, whereupon I exploded into his throat. I felt him swallow my seed, which pulsed again and again until I was limp. A soft kiss was placed on my cock's eye as the hot, wet mouth was finally removed.

The creaking of the chair springs indicated that he had sat up, but I couldn't move. I lay with one elbow crooked above my nose, half-intentionally hiding the fact that I was weeping and could not stop.

"Mulder?" he asked, his voice soft and concerned. "Fox, are you all right?"

I sobbed uncontrollably.

"C'mon, you're scaring me. Game's over, okay?" He nudged my shoulder with his knee, dislodging my arm from my face.

"God, I'm sorry," I blubbered. "I shouldn't cry. That felt so good..." I sat up reluctantly, making a space for Alex, who moved to sit beside me without question. "Can I...?" My voice trailed off, but I gestured to put my arms around him. His stump moved up to welcome my embrace, and I fell into his shoulder, nestling like a frightened child.

"Shhhhh, baby," he murmured sweetly. "Don't cry. It's okay, Fox. You don't have to be afraid anymore. Tell me what's wrong."

His soothing words had exactly the opposite effect, as my tears came harder and hotter against his neck. How did he know that I was afraid, that loving him as much as I did made me fear that I'd scare him away? How could I let him know that by hurting me while he made love to me, he only made me need it more? I felt weak and dirty and abased, and I never wanted to let him go.

"Thank you," I finally choked out. "I need you so much, I guess I overreact when you make me feel like that." It was a lame explanation, but I figured it was sufficient for now, because we had a lot of time before us to work out what our relationship really meant.

He pulled back subtly, his eyes hanging onto mine and searching their depths for the monsters that hid within. I distinctly sensed that he planned to try to fish them out another day. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I overreacted, too. The flowers are beautiful. Thank you for giving them to me. I know you were just trying to do something nice, to make me feel better. I appreciate that now." He kissed me firmly, without the driving passion, but with something deeper and more meaningful, though I preferred not to name that meaning just yet.

By then it was late afternoon, and I was getting hungry. "Should I make some dinner?" I asked, wiping my eyes on my shirtsleeve.

"Unless you want me to whip something up, go ahead." His joking mood brought me the rest of the way to normal, or as normal as I ever got. We retired to the kitchen in pursuit of food.


My cooking that evening was ordinary, but serviceable. Meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, and carrots: a perfectly unchallenging meal. It took me as long to cook it as it did to feed it to Alex, making sure I ate something myself. I did take some comfort in his ravenous appetite, watching him gobble up the forkfuls as fast as I could assemble them.

After dinner, we sat like an old married couple on the sofa, blithely ignoring some mystery movie on TV as I paged through the morning's Post and Alex dozed on my shoulder. It was as if the emotional roller coaster of the afternoon was the matinee of some tawdry melodrama: stirring while it was taking place, but easily forgotten with the passage of time.

When it came time for bed, I decided to give Alex a bath, which I figured would get him clean without soaking his bandages as well as relax both of us. I almost figured wrong on the first of these ideas, and definitely missed the mark on the second.

First came the issue of getting him *into* the tub, which was easy when it involved stepping over the edge, but suddenly difficult and a little frightening when it came to getting him to sit down in the water. He was terrified of losing his balance, having no way to catch himself if he slipped, and kept struggling while I held him firm and pushed him by degrees to a sitting position. I don't think my bathroom had had that much water splashed around in it since the super had scrubbed it down prior to my moving in.

Eventually, a beautiful, naked, and petrified Alex sat soaking in my tub, his broken arm propped up out of the way. "Maybe I should have bought you a little plastic boat," I teased, trying to break the tension.

His only response was to give me the most adorable dirty look I had ever seen on his face. Unfortunately for me, my reaction to this was to laugh.

After our impromptu wrestling match, I was mentally armed against his fury, and the daggers he looked at me bounced off. "Is this funny, Mulder? Are you getting a charge out of seeing me helpless and completely at your mercy for a change?"

Without warning, my armor slipped. Where had I heard those words before? At your mercy... Uh-oh. No wonder they sounded familiar--I had spoken them to Alex to encourage him to fuck me for the first time. As I crouched on the bathmat, I clung to the edge of the tub for fear that the verbal backhand would pitch me right over.

"If only I could tell you to get out and leave me alone..." he threatened.

Suddenly he had given me the rope to haul myself back up. "But you can't, can you? You *need* me, no matter how much it hurts to admit it." He seethed silently, but his eyes had resumed their panicked dance of the night before. Quietly, I picked up where I had left off. "So I guess that makes us even. I need you, too, Alex. You try to hurt me, I hate myself for wanting to hurt you, and you know why? It's because we can't accept each other's affection any other way. But you need more than my anger now: you need my help. So shut up and let me give it to you."

I reached for the sponge and squished out some soap into it, then began bathing him, supporting his back with my free hand as I worked the lather into his skin. I could feel him taking long, deep breaths, but could not tell if he was trying to calm himself or gird himself for a bigger fight. Intentionally, I avoided looking into his eyes and took my time cleansing him carefully and cautiously.

I had left the potentially dangerous areas to wash until last. Before I reached between his legs, I glanced up at his face. His eyes were closed and his mouth narrow in what could have been concentration.

"Alex?" I called, in case he'd fallen asleep. "Are we doing okay? Do you need anything?" I hesitated, almost afraid to move.

He opened his eyes slowly and fixed them on me as deliberately as a hawk studying its prey. "Yeah," he intoned, "kiss me, goddammit."

Somehow, his request did not surprise me, and I gladly wrapped my arm around his soapy shoulders and held him tight, pushing my tongue between his lips hungrily. I lathered his penis, then put my sponge aside and gripped him firmly, sliding my hand up and down his shaft with a practiced touch. Maybe I had done this once or twice with another man in another place at another time--it didn't matter now. All I could do was jerk him off as I'd imagined myself doing every time I'd masturbated since the night of the gala. I kissed him with every ounce of passion I had in me, and pumped him with a finesse I'd never even used on myself.

He moved his head away from my insistent mouth and whispered "I'm gonna come," before he inhaled sharply and did just that. His warm semen covered my hand, imitating the liquid soap that dissolved into the water. When it was over, he leaned his forehead against my temple and caught his breath.

At last, he made a sound closer to a satisfied groan than a sigh, and spoke. "So, are we still friends?"

I turned to him, smiling when I saw the look of contentment on his face. "At the very least," I chuckled, kissing him warmly and beginning to rinse him off.

I managed to get Alex's teeth brushed without gagging him, then gave him a pain pill so he would get some more sleep. I stood beside my bed, my clothes still damp, and regarded my guest, who stretched out in my bathrobe.

"Do you want me to read you a story?" I teased.

"You don't want to say good night, do you?" he grinned.

"I just don't want to shut that door between us." It hit me hard to admit that out loud, and even harder to think about my statement in the figurative sense, where it was even more true.

"Stay with me tonight. I mean it this time." I felt a little lightheaded when I realized that he was also thinking fondly of the last time we'd made love.

Ever practical, I offered him his options. "Pajamas, underwear, or skin?" I had my preferences, but I wanted to make my guest comfortable.

My heart leaped up, and I'm not suggesting that other body parts didn't follow suit, when he smiled broadly and asked, "What do *you* think?"

I made one last pass around the apartment, turning off lights and shutting down the computer, before I went back into my bedroom and closed the door. My clothes were soon a wadded heap on the floor, topped with my bathrobe, and Alex and I made a warm little knot of bodies in the middle of my normally lonesome bed. We found a comfortable position for his arm, whereupon I wound around him closely and snuggled in for the night.

"Good night, Mulder," he said as soon as I'd switched off the bedside lamp. "Don't let the bedbugs bite," he joked, nipping me playfully on my closest shoulder.

Flashing back on the afternoon's entertainment, I could not hold back a shudder of desire and self-loathing. I reached up and kissed him solidly, answering, "Good night, Alex. I love you."

Had I not been holding him down, I think he might have bolted upright. Instead, he turned and looked me right in the eye, even in the darkened room. "Really?"


He quieted in my arms, but I could tell he was still awake. "Why?" he whispered.

"Somebody's gotta do it. Now shut up and go to sleep."

"Okay." The room grew still as we got accustomed to each other's presence. I was almost asleep when I heard him say to himself, as if he thought I couldn't hear him, "If somebody's gotta do it, I'm glad it's you." I drifted off with a small victorious smile on my face and his words echoing in my head.


The next few days passed slowly as the ordinary pace of life shifted to accommodate my having to do everything twice: once for Alex and once for me. I suddenly felt like the mother of a small child, aside from the intelligent conversation and the frequent sex play.

Scully came back on the third day bearing what looked like scary blunt surgical instruments, but which turned out to be curved metal splints that would orient Alex's fingers in a somewhat more useful claw-shaped arrangement. This time I gave in to my little kink, and sat with them as she unwrapped and repositioned his hand, letting Alex bite into my shoulder when the pain got too bad. If Scully were disgusted by this display, she did not let on, but merely conversed with us in her best bedside manner.

The splints gave Alex a slightly larger degree of independence, though he still needed to rely on me for most small motor tasks. Langly came up with the idea of his using the eraser end of an unsharpened pencil to type a little on the computer, and he could push around the mouse with his new claw, as well, though pointing and clicking required involving his prosthesis. He had me dress him in loose elastic-waisted sport shorts with no underwear so he could handle emergency trips to the toilet on his own, or at least the important portions of them. This development made him an almost irresistible target for fondling, which I tried to limit to once or twice a day, even though he encouraged it whenever he decided that I was neglecting him.

However, I knew that there was no way I could ignore this extraordinary pest. My every activity was somehow tied up in Alex Krycek: doing laundry or cooking dinner for two, having my own thoughts interrupted by the TV as he channel-surfed or by the stereo that was on every other waking moment, finding something to engage his intellect while his bones knitted. He pored through my library with me always within earshot when pages needed turning, and beat me at more games of Monopoly than I think I'd played in my life up to that point. I learned a lot about my former partner in the weeks we spent holed up in my apartment, though I'm sure some of the facts were embroidered or glossed over for my supposed protection. I grew to know the depths of his patience, and its limits. At least once a day, he swore in frustration at some incapacity, or fell silent but for a restrained huffing that I soon understood was his way to keep from crying in anger or pain. I chose my moments carefully, but tried to be nearby in case he really needed some comfort or distraction, and he slowly accepted my consolation and began to let me see when he really needed my attention.

The most amazing transformation was in my apartment itself, or maybe my perceptions of it, because instead of being just a place to keep stuff, it became a place where I lived with someone I loved, or the classic definition of "home". It made me a little sad to go on my errands into town, but doubly happy to come back. I didn't feel comfortable blithering about this to Alex, but I think he noticed how having him there made me more responsible, yet relaxed, and I suspect it may have been affecting him the same way. At the same time, I treasured the hours we spent quietly in a room together, the moments of goofy hilarity or heartbreaking tears, the easy sensuality we had with each other, because I sensed that our time together was limited, that when he was healed, he would disappear again, and I wouldn't see him for six months, or possibly ever.

One hot afternoon, the TV blared out a baseball game over the roar of my overburdened window air conditioner. I sat clad only in threadbare cutoffs thoroughly stuck to the leather of my sofa with a bowl of popcorn at my side and a huge glass of lemonade slowly condensing over the fingers of my left hand. Alex's water bottle had been filled with more lemonade, and, similarly shirtless, he spun himself lazily in the desk chair repeatedly opening his mouth for me to fling in a kernel and laughing like a fool every time I missed.

"Aaaahhh!" I wailed at the screen when the batter whiffed an easy pitch and ended the inning.

"What?" asked Alex, truly mystified.

"He blew it. There were even two men on!" I whined like a ten-year-old.

"Why are they changing places? Why don't the rest of them get a chance?"

"That's cricket, Alex. This is baseball. Didn't your dad ever teach you about baseball?"

He didn't answer at first, so I looked at him to make sure he was okay. He was wearing the "you've got to be kidding" expression that came to Scully as readily as closing her eyes when she sneezed. "Mulder, you idiot, my dad wasn't even an American!"

"Oh, yeah. I forgot." I tossed a popcorn kernel intentionally eight inches to the right, just to make him roll over to catch it.

Instead, he let it fall to the floor. "Did your dad teach you about baseball, Mulder?"

"Of course! He even took me to a Mets game once! It was great!" I basked in the momentary memory of myself actually having fun with my father.

"I'm glad he gave you *one* good thing in your life," he offered quietly, watching my eyes for something.

I felt immediately defensive. "You didn't know him," I argued.

"I knew enough to justify carrying out my orders," he answered, his voice lowering the temperature in the room by about thirty degrees.

I was jolted by the irony of harboring my father's murderer, welcoming him into my home, taking care of him like a child, taking him as my lover. Rather than resolve this cognitive dissonance, I brushed the thought away. "He's gone now. Let's just leave it. He has no bearing on us."

Alex couldn't have looked more enlightened had he had a big cartoon incandescent bulb sprouting out of the top of his head. "That's *it*: yes, he does. He's the reason why you always used to hit me."

A droplet of sweat chose that moment to trickle between my shoulderblades, making me shiver. "What do you mean?"

"Your old man used to hit you, didn't he?"

I didn't want to pursue this line of questioning, but the masochist in me couldn't resist it. "So what if he did?"

"Did he ever tell you he loved you?"

I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat. "Yeah, sometimes."

"Did he ever show you any physical affection?"

"No," I replied sullenly. There had been a few times when he'd been really drunk that he'd kissed me hard, and that one time... but no. I still wasn't ready to face down *that* demon.

He spoke slowly, with an almost clinical precision. "I'm thinking that somehow when you used to want to touch me, the only way you could bring yourself to do it was to hurt me. Of course, we've gotten beyond that now, or have we?" He waited for an answer from me, but I could not give him one, so he went on. "I understand more than you realize, Mulder, even if you can't admit it to me, or yourself. You feel guilty when you want to hurt me, and can only really get off when I hurt you, because you feel it's what you deserve. You want me to be like Daddy and show you my love with my fists, or these days, with my teeth. Isn't that right?"

I stared at my lap, ashamed to let him see the tears he'd coaxed from my eyes. For a big liar, he sure could get to me when he told the truth.

The razors that had crept into his voice disappeared. "I don't want to be your daddy, Fox. Your daddy was cruel and he damaged you. I want to be your lover. I don't mind making it hurt sometimes for a game, because it works for you. Hell, sometimes *I* get off on it, too. But for the most part, I want to make you feel good. I don't want you to be afraid of me, ever. I hope I never make you want to hurt me anymore, although who knows where we'll be in a couple of years? But right now, I want to make you feel pampered and happy and loved. Can I try?"

"What did you have in mind?" I asked, the sharp stab in my chest countering the budding warmth in my groin.

"Let me really make love to you. I won't hurt you this time. I just want to make you come. Don't be scared. Just relax and feel whatever you feel. If you want to cry, go ahead. If you need me to stop, just say so. I don't mind. I give you permission to allow yourself to feel good this time, or anytime, really. Think you can handle it?"

Despite his gentle words, I was a little scared anyway, but I think he anticipated that. He had me set his drink on the coffee table, cover the sticky leather of my sofa with the sheet that was always stashed under the end table, then take off my shorts and lie down naked on my belly. He slid off of the wheeled chair and walked over to the sofa on his knees. In spite of the heat, I felt like one big goosebump.

Alex patted my closest elbow with his false hand, nudging me to turn it palm up. I lay with my head on my other arm, his face mere inches from mine as he extended his tongue and lapped slowly and languidly around the palm of my open hand. My eyes refused to stay open as he sucked on my fingers and kissed my fingertips, making my heart beat a little faster. "God, you have beautiful hands, Mulder," he whispered, his exhalations tickling the wet smears his tongue had left behind. "They feel so good when you touch me. When I've got my hand back again, I'm going to miss yours." He kissed my palm with his mouth open, stroking the mounds and lines with his precise tongue.

As soon as his touch was gone from my hand, I felt him nuzzle his way across my cheek to the ear that pointed skyward. The tip of his nose traced the curves of my ear, and I heard him mutter something like "of you."

"What?" I interrupted, wanting him to say it more clearly, to acknowledge what I was sure he wanted to say to me.

"Nothing," came the air across my head, unvoiced but bearing the weight of the words he could not say aloud. Instead, he ducked down and stole a kiss, then returned to tongue-fuck my ear, while I tried not to shake him loose accidentally with my responding head jerk. The noises inside my head were almost obscene, combining his rasping breath and small slurps with a steady moan that may have been his or mine, possibly both.

Breaking the vacuum seal of our joining with an echoing *pop* that momentarily deafened me, Alex repositioned himself closer to my hips, judging by the sound, as I held my eyes tightly shut. He must have stretched back to my head as he nuzzled the pulse point in the side of my neck, tracking the tendons and blood vessels lightly with his tongue. I felt rather than heard him laugh into my skin as he realized that this was one of my "hot spots", and he placed another open-mouthed kiss on it before he broke away. "I'll have to remember to bite you there next time," he promised. "For now, no teeth."

I groaned as childish an "awwwww" as I could manage, which, given my state of arousal, didn't sound very childish.

Alex laughed warmly in response and buried his nose in my hair, snuffling around like a nosy puppy. "For *that", I'm skipping ahead. You do have an awfully nice back, though, Mulder. Of course, I knew that, having seen the fine figure you cut in that little red thing you had on in the pool that day a hundred years ago..."

"I knew it!" I chortled. "You were checking me out even then! Why am I not surprised?"

"Maybe because I noticed you checking me out, too, partner. Now shut up and lie still. If I'm going to this much trouble, I certainly don't want to hurt you by accident!"

Okay, so I'm not *that* much of a masochist. I shut up and lay still. A gentle kiss was pressed to one cheek of my ass, and I sighed to receive it. It startled me to notice him sit on the last few inches of sofa at my feet. "Have you got enough room there?" I called over my shoulder.

"Not quite. Spread 'em," he ordered, good-naturedly. I obligingly parted my legs and felt him kneel between them. "Good, good," he encouraged. Now spread 'em." His voice darkened perceptibly, and I understood that he wanted me to open my ass for him. I reached back and pulled my cheeks apart nervously, alarmed when I felt a strange poke at my waist until I realized that he was propping himself and me up with his prosthesis under my stomach. "Relax," he murmured. "You're going to like this."

A rounded, smooth, dry object that could only be Alex's perfect nose was stroked slo-o-o-owly against my perineum, making me exhale just as slowly in anticipation. Up and up, back and back went the pressure against my sensitive skin, when it was abruptly removed. What could have been a wet finger, but had to be Alex's tongue, pushed against my sphincter, which I'm afraid pushed back at first. With infinite patience, he fought my natural instincts to repel the invading structure, and gradually broke through the fortress. This amazingly intimate contact did not hurt, but battered my defenses in completely unexpected ways. I immediately recalled the fullness of his cock inside me, and marveled at the comparative flexibility and accuracy of his tongue, which danced and twisted within my nether regions in mind-blowing patterns. This is how I would now describe the incredible sensations of being rimmed for the first time, but while it was happening, I'm sure the only word that came to mind was "Oh!", possibly with an occasional invocation of the Supreme Being thrown in for good measure.

I honestly have no idea if I came or not from the intensity of this activity. There was dampness on the sheet below me, but it could have just as easily been perspiration or condensation from my lemonade glass, or I could have lost control of my bladder. I can't say that I particularly cared, then or now. All I know was that when he stopped, I was rock-hard and desperately in need of an orgasm.

The hard plastic of his artificial arm was removed from beneath me as Alex must have sat back to watch me twitch in aftershock. "Was I right? Did you like that?"

"Uh-huh," I managed to choke out. "It... good. Thank you."

He laughed in commiseration. "You're welcome, Tarzan. Anything else I can do for ya?"

I rolled over slowly, my eyes opening and fixing on him sharply. "Yeah," I said with a sinister nasal drawl, pointing to the sheet under me, "lie down here. I've gotta do something."

He caught sight of my erection and smirked knowingly. "I would imagine so," he agreed, stretching his legs out toward me along the length of the sofa.

I grabbed the waistband of his shorts and tugged them off quickly, taking care not to catch them on his penis, which was impressively erect as well. I lay on top of his body, keeping his broken arm well out of the way and gentling my hands around the back of his head as I pulled him in for a deep kiss. Steadily I thrust against his stomach, bringing my own into contact with his cock, letting our heat and friction make up for tight orifices. I kissed him frantically, sparring with his tongue to match the struggle of our cocks.

Alex at last broke from a delicious kiss to growl, "Finish me, Mulder," declaring his defeat. I fished one hand out from under his head and stroked him, holding my own dick against his, yanking them together, until he screamed and came like a lava flow. My own ferocious climax soon followed, making stars dance behind my eyelids until everything went black.

An eternity, or possibly just a few moments, later, I felt his head nudging against mine and heard him call my name. "Hey, Mulder. You still in there? Earth to Mulder! Come back to me, baby. Hel-lo-o..."

"I'm here, I'm okay. Don't panic." I opened my eyes, which fell on the most beautiful thing in my life. "Oh, God, Alex," I exhaled, diving to kiss away the tears that stained his face, though they might very well have come from me. "I love you so much," I sighed, cuddling him against me and giving in to the impulse to cry for real.

He brushed his cheek softly against my neck and soothed, "I know, darlin'. I know."

I wondered where I actually stood in Alex's heart. He had never told me he loved me, but I had the distinct feeling that he did and was just afraid to say the words aloud. I decided to let the issue lie until he was ready to bring it up himself.


Several nights later, I awoke in my pitch-dark bedroom to find myself alone. I started to panic until I heard a voice singing in a dusky tenor in the outer room. The words were entirely incomprehensible, but the music was sweet enough to break my heart. I roused myself and went out to see why I was being serenaded.

Alex sat on the sofa, as naked as he'd gone to bed, or even moreso, given the emotion on his face as he sang with his eyes closed beatifically. His skin glowed in the light from the streetlamp outside my window.

I stood silently in the vestibule, observing and falling in love with the man just a little bit more. The song ended, but he continued to sit with his face upturned into the light. I felt a painful need to reconnect with him, so asked quietly, "Is that Russian?"

"Yeah," he said with a smile, slowly opening his eyes. "It's a little folksong my grandmother used to sing to me when I was scared when I was little. I'm sorry if I woke you up."

"No, you didn't. I turned over and you weren't there. *That* woke me up. Are you okay?" I crept in and sat in the armchair across from him.

He turned to me, sounding a little distant and lonely. "Bad dream. Something about being under attack and not being able to fight back."

"I can see where that would be hard on you. Do you want me to sit here with you for awhile?"

"Actually," he answered with a sheepish look, "I was hoping you'd get up. I'd like you to do something for me, that is, if you don't mind."

"When have I minded before?" I asked affably.

"Yeah, but this is illegal." If the lights had been on, I might have searched his mouth for canary feathers.

"I see. Well, you may as well ask. The worst I can do is say no."

"True. In my left jacket pocket, you'll find some cigarettes and a lighter. Could you bring them over here, please?"

I hopped up to hunt for the object of his quest. "I didn't know you smoked," I began, switching on the closet light to aid my search. "You should have said something..." My voice left me as I pulled a plastic zippered pouch containing three perfectly-rolled joints from his jacket. "Oh, I see..."

"You're a federal agent, Mulder. You don't have to do this if you don't want to."

I found his lighter, switched off the lamp, and brought the packet to him on the sofa. "Well, I *am* on leave, and all... I guess it couldn't hurt."

"You're okay with helping me get high?" He looked adorably guilty.

"You're sure this stuff is clean? I won't have to pull you back in off the windowsill in an hour, will I?"

"I only buy from the best. It's good stuff. Is this all right?"

I let him sweat a little. "Yeah. On one condition."

"What's that?"

"Let me join you."

Alex grinned and shook his head in disbelief. "You know, I should apologize for all the shit I've ever given you. Mulder, you're all right, man!"

"Is that all? How about fucking amazing?" I matched his grin as I tried to get the thing lit.

"I'll get back to you on that," he teased, his thoughts clearly visible in his eyes despite the darkness of the room.

I held the cigarette steadily to his lips as he took a long drag and brushed my fingers with his tongue as if by accident. We shared the smoke quietly, and I let the chemical enhancement wrap around my brain like Alex had wrapped himself around my heart. "Do you sing a lot?" I asked.

"Oh, not as much as I used to. I used to be in a band."

"No shit?" I challenged, seeing a whole new side to my favorite assassin-for-hire.

"Yep," he smiled in reply. "It was just bullshit to get girls in high school."

"Is that so?" I provoked. "You wanted to get girls?"

"At the time, Mulder, at the time!" he laughed, looking chastised. "I got over it, didn't I?" He must have taken my laughter as an acceptance to his loopy non-apology. "Anyway, I sometimes sing when I'm by myself and I need a little comfort, like when I have a nightmare. It's just a habit I've gotten into."

"You have a lot of nightmares?" I asked.

"Oh, sometimes," he shrugged, though I suspected that this one had been especially bad if he had been unable to come to me for comfort. "What do you dream about, Mulder?"

I wasn't sure what kind of answer he was seeking. To play it safe, I replied, "I used to dream about my sister a lot, and I still dream about Scully."

"Oh, really!" he marveled. "Do tell! Do tell!"

"Nothing like that!" I blustered, exhaling a small blue cloud, then added, slightly self-consciously, "Well, not anymore. Mostly about her being in trouble and not being able to save her."

The marijuana must have lowered Alex's barriers. "Do you ever dream about me?"

Hesitating to tell him my recurring nightmare about our night in the hotel, though I hadn't had it since the night he'd stumbled into my life full-time, I chose to exercise the better part of valor. "I dream about what it will be like when you're not here anymore."

"Oh, brother! I bet you can hardly wait to have your house back to yourself again, can you?" He chuckled to himself and waited for my answer.

I gave him the last drag from the joint and stubbed out the butt end. "I wouldn't say that. It's gonna be pretty lonely around here without you."

The smile faded from his face gradually. "You knew I couldn't stay here forever, didn't you? I mean, it's not safe for me *or* for you. I've gotta go home sometime."

"But who will sing to me when I have a nightmare?" I argued, not very much in jest. I searched his eyes for the truth.

A nervous chuckle sprang from him as he tried to defuse the moment. "You're sure that wouldn't give you worse nightmares?"

"Not at all," I said, as honestly as I could. "You've got a beautiful voice, from what I heard earlier. I wish you would sing for me."

That gave him pause. "You're sure?" he verified one more time, to which I nodded in reply. "Okay," he assented, "it's your funeral."

I'm not tone-deaf, but I'm a little slow in recognizing songs if they're not from my very favorite bands. I could tell that the song Alex chose for me was pretty old, a popular tune from my childhood, but I couldn't place it at first. Watching him raptly, I let the words sink into my consciousness, possibly for the first time.

"There are places I'll remember all my life, though some have changed,
Some forever, not for better, some have gone, and some remain,
All these places had their moments, with lovers and friends I still can recall,
Some are dead and some are living--in my life, I've loved them all."

Alex's eyes clung to mine as he intoned the second verse:

"But of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares with you,
And these memories lose their meaning when I think of love as something new.
Though I know I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them--in my life, I'll love you more."

Suddenly I couldn't breathe or speak. He'd said it, the only way he knew how, with some thirty-year-old lyrics by someone obviously more eloquent than I. His eyes shone with unshed tears in the lamplight.

We sat silently in the dark for a few minutes, the only sound being the bubbler in my fish tank. In a hushed voice, I ventured, "You mean that, don't you, Alex?"

He gazed at me as if it would hurt him to look away. "With all my heart, Fox. I love you."

I couldn't hold myself back any longer, so folded him in my arms securely and kissed him for all I was worth. Matching my enthusiasm, he seemed to lose himself in kissing me. I felt positively giddy.

I pressed his lips with my own once more, then pulled back about an inch. "Do you want to go make love right now?"

Kiss-drunk and stoned, he grinned into my face. "I thought you'd never ask." He moved as if to stand up, so I let him go, but he stumbled right back onto the couch. "Uh-oh, I think I'm ripped."

"That makes two of us, partner," I opined. Giggling like idiots, we slowly got to our feet and shuffled back to bed. I flicked on the overhead light to get my bearings.

"Ouch! That's too bright, Mulder!"

"Hey, I wanna make sure I put it in the right place."

"The lamp on the nightstand should be enough, okay? Turn off the floodlight, please." I moved to do as he requested, leaving him standing by the door, obviously replaying my words in his head. "Wait a minute. Did you just say...?"

The bedside table lamp on, I returned to his side to turn off the wall switch. "Yeah, beautiful. Tonight it's your turn." I escorted him to the side of the bed and sat down next to him.

He held me off briefly with his wrapped claw. "You've never done this before, have you?"

"No," I confessed, "but I want to do it with you. Is that okay?"

His expression softened as he saw the sincerity in my eyes. He smiled and answered, "It would mean a lot to me to be fucked by the man I love. Thank you, Fox. Thank you for loving me that much."

"You're welcome, Alex. Thank you for loving me, too." I found the condoms and lube I'd hidden in the bedside drawer a month before and set them out where I could reach them. I turned back to my lover and kissed him long and hard, squeezing his shoulders and pushing him back across my bed. I nuzzled his ears and nibbled his throat, dipping my tongue in that wonderful hollow above his breastbone. I licked and teased his nipples until they were pointing straight up, imitating his chin. I rubbed his exposed biceps, smoothed his chest hair, and caressed his stomach with long strokes of my palms and fingers, provoking the deepest moans I'd ever heard Alex make.

At last I reached his cock, which bobbed in the air, firm and enticing. I stroked it a few times, then ran my tongue up its length, enclosing the tip inside my mouth. Alex's back arched, pushing himself against my tongue, causing me nearly to gag. He must have heard me gulp, because he lay back down and called, "Sorry," just loud enough so I could hear it. I sucked him inexpertly, but determined to learn as I went. My stamina gave out too soon, so I left his penis with a lap of my tongue across its eye before I let go.

"I guess you could tell it's my first time, can't you?" I asked, embarrassed.

"That's okay, Mulder. You did fine. You wanna go for the whole enchilada?"

I took a deep breath and felt the pulse in my own cock. "Yeah. I hope I don't hurt you by accident."

"I trust you. I hope it feels good for you. I'm ready when you are."

I helped Alex roll onto his stomach with a pillow under his hips. Outfitting myself with a condom and applying the Astroglide, I warmed some in my hand to apply directly to his anus. I slipped a finger inside him, then two, mentally preparing to cross the great divide.

"Alex?" I whispered.

"Yeah, Mulder?" he responded.

"I love you."

"That's good. I love you, too. Now fuck me, will you? It'll be fine."

"Okay," I mumbled, parting his ass with my hands and guiding my engorged cock inside him carefully. The sensation was entirely different from penetrating a woman's sex, of course. Where a vagina was slick and made of delicate, yielding folds and spaces, a rectum was all firm ridges that pushed back as I pushed my way in. I felt the ripples of muscles that ringed my member, imagining it caught in a Chinese fingertrap from which I never wished to escape. Well, Scully, I thought to myself, you were right. This is where I was meant to be. God bless you, partner, for seeing through all of my self-delusions to find my true colors. Maybe I ought to listen to you more often...

"Fox?" interrupted Alex.


"How are we doing back there?"

"Fine. I think I'm still stoned."

"I know you're still stoned. Let's get on with it, okay?"

"Oops. Sorry." I stopped thinking about my bureau partner and tried to focus on my bed partner. Grabbing his hips tightly, I pulled most of the way out, then drove back in again, enjoying the slide of the lube and the heat of his opening. "Does that work? Is that right?" I asked doubtfully.

"Yeah," Alex groaned, "keep doing it like that. I think you're a natural."

Soon all language left me, and I contented myself with the tactile glory of holding this unpredictable beauty in my bed and giving him everything that I had. I bent over his curved back, sheltering him with my body, and moved in and out in mindless bliss. Almost as an afterthought, I reached around to fondle his cock, which had grown noticeably harder and hotter since I'd left it unsatisfied. I jerked him in time to my thrusts, feeling the familiar pressure build in his loins and my own.

Wordless moans rose from the warm body beneath me, and soon my hand was sticky with his come. I continued to ride him like a smooth, pliable surfboard, growing bolder and more comfortable with this arrangement with each stroke. As soon as he was able, Alex chanted soft words of encouragement to me: "C'mon, Mulder, let go. Do it to me. You know I want you to come in me. Give it up for me, sweetheart."

That was all it took. My release was like fire, shooting out of me like a flamethrower. The throbbing of our muscles coincided as I pumped the last waves deep inside my love. "Wow," I said as loud as I could, which I'm sure was drowned out by the beating of my heart in my throat. "Unbelievable..."

"You're welcome, gorgeous. Thank you for a lovely time. I'm glad I came," joked Alex.

"Me, too, " I groaned, slowly able to move again. "Thank *you*, sugar. Have I told you recently that I love you?"

"Not recently enough, but I think I got the idea. I love you, too, but I'd love you even more if you got me a washcloth or something to clean up."

"If I can stand up, I'll get right on it." I backed off of the bed, surprised at how far we'd gotten to the opposite side of the mattress. Shaky knees notwithstanding, I made it into the bathroom, disposed of the prophylactic, and wiped up the residue of our lovemaking, enjoying a persistent pleasant buzz.

My happy thoughts were interrupted by a blood-chilling crash. "Shit!" screamed Alex, loud enough to wake up the downstairs neighbors.

I ran back to the bedroom to find the bed empty. "Oh, God," came a raspy moan from the floor near the far wall. I ran to the other side to find Alex a disheveled heap on a pillow.

"What happened?" I shouted.

"Goddammit," Alex cried, real tears choking his voice. "I moved, and the pillow slipped over the edge, and I went to grab it and fell out of bed, right on my wrist!"

Gathering him up in my arms like a rag doll, I rocked and petted him, trying to get him to let me see his arm without bursting into tears myself. "Do you think it's been broken again?"

"I don't know!" he wailed. "I think so. It hurts!" I chalked up his lack of defenses to the pot and post-coital vulnerability. He nuzzled hard into my neck and cried like a little boy.

Making every pretense to sound strong and responsible, I chided him, "This time we've gotta go to the hospital, Alex. You need an x-ray."

"No, no, no, no, no," he whimpered pitifully. "It's too dangerous. I'll be a sitting duck!"

I gave him a squeeze and gently set him upright in my lap. "I'll take care of everything. Nobody will know you're there. We'll check you in under my name and put down Scully as your doctor. I can call Langly to stand guard part of the time--would you like that?"

Snuffling, he nodded reluctantly. In due time, he let me stand him up and put him in bed while I called Scully. At first, I planned for her to meet us at the hospital, but I realized that I was still in no condition to drive, so I ended up promising her everything up to and including my firstborn child in exchange for a ride at the ungodly hour of three in the morning (which sounded suspiciously familiar).

I threw on some clothes and dressed Alex, then gathered up everything that belonged to him, including his prosthesis, and shoved it all into a plastic grocery bag. Draping his jacket over his shoulders, I took him out of my apartment for the first time in a month and downstairs to wait for Scully. He huddled against me in the back seat of her car as I made pointless conversation to calm him while catching Scully's eye watching me seriously and sympathetically in the rear-view mirror.

I gave one of my pseudonyms when I helped them admit him as "Fox Mulder" in the emergency room, then moved on to a waiting room where I paced like an expectant father while he was in radiology and surgery. As suspected, his messily-set and partially-healed wrist had been re-broken, and the doctors, approved by Scully, decided to secure the fractured bones with a metal brace under the skin of his arm.

Some hours later, he was wheeled past me, still dead to the world, and I trailed along to his private room near a nurse's station, where the sun was starting to peek in the window over the roof of the adjoining wing. I sipped at a cup of cafeteria coffee and watched him sleep, wondering what was going to happen next.

When he finally came out of the anaesthetic, I sat on the edge of his bed and petted his hair, understanding that he was still too groggy to talk much. His arm was wrapped in a new cast, one that finally left most of his fingertips open to the air, and seeing it gave me a pang of no longer being needed. Somehow he sensed my uneasiness, and carefully lifted his newly-freed hand to my face, sliding his index fingertip along my bottom lip. "Love you," he croaked out, giving me a weak smile.

I pressed a kiss gently to his proffered fingers and set his arm back across his stomach on the coverlet. "I love you, too, Alex. What am I going to do without you in my house?"

"You'll manage," he said. "You always have." We sat there staring into each other's eyes like lovesick teenagers for awhile until a nurse came to check on him and evicted me to the hallway. I went and called Langly, who agreed to come by and take over in a few hours. The staff, believing my lie that their patient was a federal agent who would require round-the-clock protection, had agreed to overlook the visiting-hour restrictions in "Mulder's" case, so when the nurse was finished, I took up residence next to Alex's bed and sat with him the rest of the afternoon.

I must have been just too used to grabbing naps in hospital rooms, because the next thing I knew, Langly was jostling my shoulder and rousing me from the edge of Alex's mattress where I'd laid my head when the TV had gotten boring. My eyes immediately flew to the patient, who was also snoozing prettily.

"How is he?" Langly whispered.

"The doctor says that the surgery will take a couple of weeks to heal, but that his hand will be back to normal soon. He can probably come home with me in two or three days, but they want to keep him here for now."

"You'll let me know when you need me to relieve you, won't you?" he asked, looking like he was relishing being needed by another person almost as much as I was.

I stretched to realign my spine in my hospital-uncomfortable chair. "As a matter of fact, I could stand a walk right now. Let me go grab another coffee, and I'll be back in a little while."

This hospital, located about halfway between my apartment and the Hoover Building, was nearly as familiar to me as both of them. I wandered to the coffee shop to fetch some liquid refreshment and a newspaper, and made myself as comfortable as I could.

In about a half an hour, I made my way back to Alex's room. As I got closer to the nurse's station, I was startled to see A.D. Skinner, bearing a cellophane-wrapped bouquet, leaning on the counter speaking quietly to the woman on duty. The one drawback of having Alex use my name, which I had apparently overlooked, was having it made known at the bureau that I had been admitted to the hospital. I hurried to Skinner's side to guarantee that he didn't wander into Alex's room unawares. "Sir?" I interrupted his conversation with the nurse.

Surprised, he spun on his toe and stared me down with flashes of displeasure in his brown eyes. "Agent, I was under the impression that you had surgery this morning. What are you doing out of bed?"

I steered him by the elbow to a row of chairs across from the station and quietly tried to maintain a bit of status quo. "That wasn't me, sir. What exactly did Scully tell you about my leave of absence?"

He sat down and reset his features into a more sympathetic cast. "Oh, yes. She said that you were taking care of an old lover who was dying. I'm sorry that I didn't put that together. You used your own name to protect his anonymity, didn't you?"

I was slightly taken aback by the ease with which Skinner had accepted the idea of me having a male lover, but shook it off to reassure him. "Yes, sir. His family doesn't understand, and I've done what I could. Do you mind if I give him your flowers?"

He seemed amazed that he still held the stems in his hand, and gave them to me warily. "Of course. Anything to brighten his last few days. Will it be long now?"

"The doctors may let me take him home in a few days. After that, it's just a matter of time." All I could think at that moment was that it really was going to be just a matter of days before Alex Krycek was gone from my life and that I really would be alone, so there was no need for me to manufacture an expression of sadness and loss.

"I'm sure this has been hard on you. Take as much time as you need, son." He patted my shoulder with completely professional compassion.

Just then, Langly poked his head out of the door. "Hey, man! We were wondering where you'd gotten to! Alex heard your voice out here and sent me to see who you were talking to..."

Skinner blanched visibly. "Alex? Not Alex Krycek?"

I prayed for a steely demeanor to prevent me from exposing my lie as I answered, "No, sir. Not Krycek. You don't know this Alex." I thought to myself how true that statement was, how he had no way of knowing the Alex Krycek who loved me, no matter what kind of a criminal Alex Krycek was in the rest of his life.

He gripped my arm almost to the point of causing me pain, but kept his voice steady as if to hide secrets of his own. "Be glad that it's *not* Krycek. You may think you know him, but you don't. He's a very dangerous man. Steer clear of him, if you have any sense of self-preservation left, Agent Mulder. I'm warning you..."

His words disturbed me so that I wanted to ask him what was wrong, but he rose suddenly, rearranging his face to a calm brusqueness, and shook me by the hand. "Take care of your friend, Agent. I'll see you as soon as you can make it back into the office."

"Thank you, sir," I called to his retreating back, then picked up the flowers and went back to my lover's bedside.

"Are those for me?" Alex piped up as soon as he spotted the flowers. I was glad to see that he'd gotten used to the idea of receiving cut flowers in the spirit they were intended, for Langly's sake if nothing else.

"Who was that?" Langly asked as he took the flowers and went about filling a vase with water from the sink across from the bed.

"Oh, it was just Skinner," I began, still a bit unsettled by our conversation.

"Skinner?" interjected Alex. "*Walter* Skinner? He's here?" He almost jumped out of bed, he was so agitated.

"Calm down. He's gone," I said to him, pushing him carefully by his shoulders back onto his pillows. "What business have you got with him? He seemed pretty upset when he thought you were here."

"He knows I'm here?" A look of sheer panic filled Alex's face. "I've gotta get out of here! I told you this wasn't safe!"

I kept wrestling him back into bed. "Look, he thought it was you, but I convinced him it was another friend of mine named Alex. He doesn't suspect a thing!"

This did not reassure him. He shot a threatening look at Langly, who set the vase of flowers on the windowsill. "Could you leave us alone a minute?" he asked, almost word for word as I asked him the same thing. Langly shrugged and stepped out into the hall again.

"Krycek, what is going on with you and Skinner? He doesn't trust you, for some reason..."

"Look, Mulder, there's some things you're better off not knowing. All I can say is, you shouldn't trust him, no matter what he tells you..."

"Why? What do you know?" I tried to look him straight in the eye, but he wouldn't meet my gaze.

"Too much, love--far too much. If I were you, I'd go home right now and not come back here. I don't know how safe it is for you if he's snooping around here..."

"Alex, he's my *boss*. I don't have anything to fear from him," I argued.

"Are you so sure? How about from his friends?" He fixed his eyes on me, challenging me to defy him. "Trust me, Mulder, some of his associates do not have anyone's best interests in mind but their own. Go home where it's safe."

I stared at him in shocked silence. "Do you really want me to go?" I finally asked.

Looking at my face as if memorizing it, he answered, "Perhaps you should, but that doesn't mean I *want* you to leave. I don't want to fight with you. I love you too much."

"I love you, too, Alex. Maybe I had better go, anyway. I'll miss you tonight." I took his face in my hands and kissed him deeply one last time.

As his lips reluctantly broke from mine, he replied, "I'll miss you, too. Thanks for everything, Mulder."

I held my forehead against his for one more moment, then moved to the door. "You're welcome, Alex. And thank *you*."

"For what?"

"For making me happy. Good night, beautiful. I'll see you tomorrow."

"I'll see you," he echoed. "Oh, and Mulder?" he called before I made it out the door.


"I owe you a "fucking amazing"..." he grinned, reminding me of our conversation early that morning.

"You don't owe me anything. Good night."

"Good night, gorgeous."

I handed over my vigil to Langly and went home alone.


The apartment seemed eerily quiet when I let myself back in. For some reason, I felt I had to make the bed before I could settle down and do anything else. I stuck the box of condoms and the tube of Astroglide into the drawer of the bedside table before I went back out to look for some dinner.

I microwaved some leftover macaroni and cheese and tried to concentrate on a Mets night game, but my mind kept wandering. The ashes from our spent joint seemed to mock me from their ashtray on my coffee table. I was already missing Alex's constant presence in my life for the previous four weeks. There was nobody there to argue about what video to rent, nobody to make off-the-wall suggestions about ingredients to add to my lackluster cooking, nobody even to kiss when words got the better of us. Aside from the TV and the fish tank, there was no sign of life around me at all. I decided that I didn't like my apartment quite as much all of a sudden...

At one in the morning, I finally tried to turn in, but I couldn't bring myself to turn down the bed for just myself, so I found my familiar sheet and pillow and stretched out on the couch as I'd done so many nights before. Sleep, however, was impossible to find, as Alex's face, in all its myriad expressions, floated behind my eyelids every time I attempted to shut them.

I must have fallen asleep at some point, though, because I found myself dreaming my old well-known nightmare, though this time when Skinner broke in the door and aimed at Alex while he fucked me on that huge hotel bed, he missed and shot off my left arm. I sat up suddenly, making my head swim a little, then noted the time and decided I'd had enough sleep for one night.

Getting ready to go visit Alex at the hospital went unpredictably quickly, because I only had to shave my own stubbly chin, feed myself Rice Krispies, and put on my own clothes. I had found the "Get Well Soon" balloon on a stick that had been in the flowers I'd brought home for Alex that first day, and brought it along to give to him.

I darted between orderlies pushing huge carts of breakfast trays as I wound my way to Alex's room. Whistling some stupid pop song, I almost tripped over Langly, who sat morosely in a chair across from the nurse's station. "Hey, Langly, what's up? Is he awake yet?" I asked, making a beeline for the door.

"He's gone," he announced, almost as if he were saying that the doctors had lost him on the operating table.

"What?" I bellowed.

"Shhhhh!" he shushed, along with the entire complement of nurses at the station across the hall.

"Where is he?" I blundered into the room where I'd said goodbye to Alex the night before, but the bed was empty, already made up for its next resident. All that remained were Skinner's slightly battered flowers, which still stood in their vase on the windowsill.

Langly bumped into my back as I stood stopped in the middle of the room. "I'm sorry, man," he apologized, more serious than I'd ever heard him before. "He left. I tried to get him to stay and see you one more time, but he said it wasn't safe here and he had to go."

"Go where?" I persisted, as a nurse shooed us out of the room and back out into the hall. Before I left, I stuck my balloon into the lonely flower vase, loathing the idea of carrying it back home.

"I don't know," replied Langly as he plopped down once again in a molded plastic chair. "He wouldn't tell me. He said he could manage all right on his own, that he didn't need me anymore."

I grabbed him by the shoulders too firmly and peered into his beady eyes. "What about me? Did he say anything about me?"

"Just to tell you he was sorry."

"Sorry? *Sorry*? He comes and installs himself in my apartment for a month, then disappears without a trace and all he can say is "Sorry"?" I felt tears start to run down my cheeks, and I rubbed ineffectually at my nose with the back of my hand.

Langly hesitantly put his arm around my shoulders and tried to console me while not making a big show of it--I could tell he didn't want to appear anything less than butch.

"Go home, Mulder. He's not here anymore. There's nobody you need to see here. I'm sure you haven't seen the last of Alex Krycek."

I left the ward before I embarrassed myself bawling, choosing instead to do that in my car in the parking garage. When I could finally see clearly enough to drive, I did so, not caring where I went or if I obeyed every last traffic law.

Sometime later I found myself at home, even though I wanted to be anyplace but there, because I think I knew instinctively that I was a danger to other people with the state I was in. When I came in the door, I went into the bathroom to take care of the hard-on I'd gotten thinking about fucking Alex, but I went soft the minute I touched myself. Distraught, I pawed through the collection of liquor bottles under my kitchen sink, found the two that were the fullest, and proceeded to get extremely drunk. I threw up twice, and still crashed on the sofa very late with a raging bellyache.

The next morning, I was predictably hung over, but I got dressed and went to the office anyway because I couldn't stand the thought of staying in my apartment any longer than absolutely necessary. I must have looked positively demonic when I appeared in the door, judging by the horror on Scully's face when she first laid eyes on me, but she covered it as best she could with a broad, friendly smile. Being the physician on "Fox Mulder's" chart, she must have known about Alex's flying the coop, and didn't quiz me for details. She left me mostly alone to pretend to fill out forms left over from our last trip, though I could tell she wanted to hover over me and was just able to hold herself back. After I came back from throwing up lunch, she had even left a can of 7-Up on my desk for me without comment.

At about quarter to four, I announced that I was going home, prompting her to give a silent, but still noticeable, sigh of relief. "Are you going to be okay, Mulder?" she finally dared to ask.

"I don't know, Scully. I sure hope so."

"You still want me to hunt him down for you?" she offered, jokingly.

"No, thanks. If I ever find him, I may kill him myself," I replied, mostly just to hear myself say the words, because we both knew I would never mean them in a million years.

"Well, let me know if you need any help, I mean, help getting your place back to normal, of course! Not help with that other thing!" she flustered amusingly.

I opened my arms, and she practically leaped into my embrace. "Thank you, Scully. I'll call you if I need you."

She pressed her cheek to the first necktie I'd worn in over a month's time. "It's good to have you back, Mulder. I missed you. Now go home before you pass out."

"Is that your professional advice, Doctor Scully?"

"No, Mulder, that's a personal suggestion. I've been worried about you. I love you, you know."

I held her at arm's length. "Really?"

"Somebody's gotta do it," she shrugged, grinning.

"Yeah, you've got that right," I mumbled, turning and heading for the parking garage before I started to cry again.

I drove straight home, mostly on autopilot, though I sat in my car in my parking spot for a full ten minutes before I could bring myself to go inside. My mailbox held a few days' accumulation of tabloids and X-rated advertisements, so I wasn't looking at the floor when I stepped over my threshold, but I heard myself kick a small mailer inside my door further into my vestibule.

Dropping my armload of mail on the table, I found the package, which had been addressed to me with a typewriter but bore no return address. I sat at my desk and pried open the staples with a letter opener, then dumped out the contents: a single unmarked mini-cassette. Not having a mini-cassette dictation machine, I started to swear quietly to myself until I spotted my answering machine and pulled out the message tape: a perfect match! I clicked the tape into the receptacle and hit the "playback messages" button.

"Hey, gorgeous," began Alex's voice on the tape, "sorry I had to leave in such a hurry, but I needed to be somewhere other than in a hospital where just anybody could find me. Langly got me this recorder thing when we figured out it took the same kind of tapes as your answering machine, and I thought it might be useful. Guess I was right, huh?"

I nodded stupidly at the blinking red light.

His voice continued on the tape. "I just wanted to let you know that I'll be okay. Don't worry about me. I would never have made it without your help, Mulder--I hope you realize that. There's some stuff going on that I can't tell you about right now, but I'll come see you just as soon as I can. I'm not sure when that will be, but don't ever believe that I'm avoiding you because I lied about loving you. I do, with all my heart. Thanks for everything, and here's a little something to listen to the next time you have a nightmare..."

I wasn't particularly surprised to hear him sing the very words he'd sung to me our last night together.

"Though I know I'll never ever lose affection for people and things that went before,
"I know I'll often stop and think about them--in my life, I'll love you more.

"Do svidaniya, Fox. Goodbye, love, for now."

The rest of the tape was blank. I listened to it all the way through four times.




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Langly's mother may not be a Beatle freak, but I am! Lyrics quoted (without permission) come from the Lennon & McCartney songs "Blackbird" and "In My Life".

My bottomless thanks to Leah and her entourage for their encouragement and support, and to Tiff and Mickey for their patience. See? I did finish it! I love you guys! This one's for the man himself on his 39th birthday!